On Sunday, November 11, a special conference was held for members of the Church in the Santo Domingo San Gerónimo stake. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided, accompanied by his wife. Also attending were Elder Candido Fortuna, Area Seventy, and his wife, and John Edwin Rappleye, president of the Santo Domingo temple, and his wife. San Gerónimo stake president John Lopez conducted. It was an historic event for the 1,140 attendees.
The meeting began with a beautiful hymn performed by the choir and the congregation, 'Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice' after which brother Leonardo Vidal from the San Gerónimo ward offered the invocation.
President Lopez was the first to address the overflow congregation. He began by thanking everyone for 'everything they do to build the kingdom in this stake of San Gerónimo. We love you.'
Quoting the scripture found in the 27th chapter of the book of Psalms, he taught: 'It strikes me when the term “inheritance” is used, speaking about our children. They are an inheritance that ... our Heavenly Father allows us at birth in this life.... He gives us the power to give life, to procreate.' He remarked that our children are highly esteemed by our Heavenly Father and should be by us as well.
Later he said: 'Being born in this life and having children is the greatest blessing that I or anyone can have.... I give thanks to my mother for having the vision [of having more children despite having a miscarriage before me]. I have the privilege of being here on earth and progressing to return to the presence of my Heavenly Father and becoming as He is.” He concluded his remarks by indicating that we are partners with our Heavenly Father in this work of bringing His children to earth and encouraged those who are married and still have no children to ponder this doctrine in their hearts.
Elder Fortuna taught, 'The Book of Mormon is one of the main tools we have to help others understand the Plan of Salvation. We must testify that this book changes lives and answers the questions that come from the heart.'
He shared the story of a missionary from Tonga who served under his direction in Honduras while he was serving as mission president. This missionary always had a smile on his face that spread to all who interacted with him as it reflected the love of the Savior. 'In December, after communicating with his mother,' he said, 'he wrote to tell me how happy he felt to be able to talk with her.' That same week, I received a call from his mother's house. She had passed away. This missionary had already lost his father. 'I drove to his house, because I did not think it to be appropriate to make a phone call to communicate such news.' When informing him about what happened, the missionary began to cry. 'He asked me what he should do, and I answered him with a question: “What would your mother want you to do?' The missionary indicated that she would want him to complete his mission. He became one of the mission's most successful missionaries. 'His faith in Jesus Christ had been strengthened by putting [Him] first in his life.' He concluded his words by testifying of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and how it changes people’s lives.
Sister Christofferson began her remarks by saying, 'Elder Fortuna gave my speech, but my husband told me that an important message requires two witnesses.' She taught about something she learned at a regional conference she attended many years ago in Washington, DC. One of the authorities who spoke explained that by reading The Book of Mormon as a family they could overcome the great trials that would come to them. They would come closer as a family to the Lord when they studied together the precepts therein. He testified that reading this book and following the teachings found in it helped them come closer as a family. Sister Christofferson then said: 'Upon hearing the promise of an apostle that [by studying the Book of Mormon as a family] the contamination in the family would diminish, I felt very eager to put it into practice”. She finished her remarks inviting everyone to study the Book of Mormon and find the peace that lies within its pages.
Before the concluding teachings by Elder Christofferson, the choir and congregation sang the hymn 'Secret Prayer.'
Elder Christofferson began his remarks by recalling that he was present at a conference in this same stake about 18 years ago. He thanked our Heavenly Father for the opportunity to be here again and also thanked those who made this meeting possible. In his message he stressed the importance of the temple and of attending it. He shared something he had read from the journal of Brother Coors, a pioneer member of the Church. Brother Coors had two deceased relatives appear to him in a dream, one at a time. The first relative told him that he was in the spirit world where he heard more about the restored gospel and accepted it. He asked him to please perform the ordinance of baptism on his behalf once the temple in Salt Lake City was built. The other deceased relative, for whom the ordinance had already been carried out in the Navoo temple, appeared with a light surrounding him. He indicated that he needed the sealing ordinance to be performed for him because: 'I cannot progress anymore.' 'It is interesting to point out that even after this life, our spirits continue with the same strength, individual personality, reasoning power, and the power to speak, to listen, and to learn' said Elder Christofferson.
'What a privilege we have of receiving these ordinances for ourselves,' he said. He then invited us to share these beautiful truths with everyone. He invited us to say 'Come and see,' as the Lord did, to welcome others with open arms and happiness, to share these beautiful blessings.
'We will have a special opportunity on December 23rd, two days before Christmas. The First Presidency said that this should be 'the invitation Sunday.' On this day, Sacrament meeting will be “focused only on the Lord,' he said. 'In this natural way we should invite everyone to enjoy what the Lord has so generously given us.'
To conclude, he left a special blessing upon the congregation, that there would be food, clothing and everything necessary in each home. 'I testify that Jesus Christ lives, that He is at the head of the Church. I testify that He lives, that I have seen His hand working and directing this great work.'
The meeting concluded with the choir and the congregation singing 'God Be with You till We Meet Again' and the benediction was offered by Sister Nathalie Vargas of the Enriquillo ward.
After the meeting, Elder Christofferson and those who accompanied him shook hands with and greeted each of the children and youth in the congregation one by one.